St Kilda manager Brett Ratten has praised Marcus Windhager on his debut performance – especially as the midfielder was ‘a bit shaken’ after being involved in a minor car accident on match day.
Windhager was one of seven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players who represented the Saints on Sunday in the club’s 69-point landslide victory over Hawthorn.
A graduate of Saints’ Next Generation Academy program, Windhager finished with 15 takedowns and four tackles.
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“Marcus did a really good job coming in. He had a car accident this morning so he was probably a little shaken up, but he came out and performed really well first,” Ratten said.
“His contested ball and his competitiveness were there and his ability to run on the ground is quite impressive for a young guy.
“He was (OK after the accident), it wasn’t that bad.”
Ratten said the car Windhager was in was “not too bad either”, adding: “These days (new players) come in with a pretty good car first.
“I don’t live too close to the club, so he might have to wait a bit (for Ratten to pick him up) or get up quite early. But yeah, I’ll pick him up.
Windhager joined Bradley Hill, Jade Gresham, Paddy Ryder, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera, Jarrod Lienert and Ben Long for a special photo in the halls after the game.
“Oh, that’s awesome,” Ratten said. “When you look at the Australian population, I think First Nations are 3% – and having 30% of our squad today there just shows the talent and the skills and what they do for our football club.
“Having seven players today was a very proud moment.”
Gresham, who played for the Saints against the Hawks with four goals on 20 eliminations, beamed with pride after the game.
“It’s a special moment to have seven Aboriginal boys there. I’m really proud,” Gresham told foxfooty.com.au after the game.
“It was unreal to run with all the boys – hopefully there will be many more to come.
Gresham said he “definitely” wants St Kilda to remain a leader in the AFL when it comes to signing indigenous players and giving them a chance at senior level.
“I think there’s a lot of room to move,” he said.
“It’s good to have nine native boys at the club, which I think is the most equal in the AFL, so that’s great.”
St Kilda’s final score of 22.10 (142) was their highest since Round 23, 2016 as they jumped into the top four of the AFL ladder with a third straight win.
When asked how nice it was to be involved in a high-scoring game and win like that, Gresham said: “It’s much better than not scoring any goals.
“We all played our roles today but we have to continue that in Gold Coast next week because they are a tough team.”
Ratten said the win over the Hawks was a “step forward” for the Saints at the start of a long season of “trying to build momentum and belief.”
“Hawthorn played really good football in the first three rounds and hurt opposing teams on the counterattack and was very powerful,” Ratten said.
“I thought we made it a bit difficult for ourselves at the start of the game, but I thought we just built our game and overall we stuck to what we were trying to do and it worked really well. .”